At Ireland’s Park Hotel Kenmare, I'm floating on the edge of an infinity pool at the Sámas Spa, letting the jets and warm water sooth my muscles. Moments before, I was sitting in the aroma sauna, soaking up the heat, before enjoying a tropical rain shower.

After six days of hiking across Irish beaches, to stone forts and castles, and eating and drinking in quaint Irish towns, I can say a spa treatment is just what I needed. Surprisingly, I have the vitality pool all to myself, and through the trees, I can see the sparkling blue waters of Kenmare Bay.

Park Hotel Kenmare

The Vitality Pool with a view. Photo courtesy Park Hotel Kenmare

This destination spa is part of the Park Hotel Kenmare, a 5-star hotel in the Heritage Town of Kenmare, Ireland. While exploring the town, I had the pleasure of being hosted by the Park Hotel Kenmare which was voted “Best Hotel in Ireland” by Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazine readers. During my stay, I discovered this historic hotel is the perfect place to pamper yourself and explore the town of Kenmare.

Park Hotel Kenmare

The historic hotel is one of 50 properties in Ireland's Blue Book. Photo by Lara Dunning

History and Modernity

The Park Hotel Kenmare has been privately owned and managed since 1897. Built to accompany Kenmare's rail line it took three years to build. The original hotel had 30 bedrooms, electric lights powered by a water generator, and all the furniture and silverware were Irish made.

Today, the well-known hotelier and television personality Francis Brennan and his brother John own the hotel. They added additional rooms, the spa and lap pool, classes and programs, and extended stay residences. The hotel is also part of Ireland's Blue Book, a prestigious collection of hotels, manor houses, castles and restaurants throughout Ireland.

First Impressions

As I drove past the gate and up the drive, the Tudor mansion made from Portland stone commanded all of my attention.

Park Hotel Kenmare

The hotel took three years to build and opened in 1897. Photo by Lara Dunning

Inside, the decor with antique furniture, a large portrait over a cozy fireplace, and a bellman ready to take my luggage made me feel liked I'd walked into a royal country estate.

Park Hotel Kenmare

Throughout the hotel is fine art and antique furnishings. Photo by Lara Dunning

Next to the entrance, I checked in at reception. Moments later, staff whisked me to my luxury accommodations and ordered me tea and biscuits.

Park Hotel Kenmare

The reception made quite an impression with its large painting and unique round desk. Photo courtesy of the Park Hotel Kenmare

My Suite at Park Hotel Kenmare

My suite featured a foyer, a sitting area, a bedroom with a four-poster bed and a small walk-in closet with a dressing mirror, and a large bathroom. Everything had the style of lavish living quarters.

Park Hotel Kenmare

Beautiful antiques and paintings adorn the rooms and suites at the Park Hotel Kenmare. Photo courtesy of the Park Hotel Kenmare.

As you'd expect in a mansion, beautiful paintings adorned the walls, and antiques and custom furniture filled the rooms. Rooms also come with complimentary Wi-Fi, a flatscreen television, CD player, 24-hour in-room service, DVD player with 300 movie options, MP3/IPod connector, and adaptors upon request.

Park Hotel Kenmare

The suites are very roomy and charming. Photo by Lara Dunning

My two favorite features were the four-poster bed that came with Rivolta Carmignani Linens and an adorable fluffy stuffed toy sheep. And, the windows where I could easily feast my eyes on the landscape.

Park Hotel Kenmare

The hotel is perfectly situated to take in the water and mountain views. Photo by Lara Dunning

During my stay, my suite had all the comforts I needed, a cozy bed, a large soaking tub, and lovely views.

If you are traveling with a larger group, you'll want to consider the nearby upscale self-catering townhouses with two-bedrooms and a sitting and dining area.

Park Hotel Kenmare

Townhouses offer spacious and upscale self-catering accommodations. Photo courtesy of the Park Hotel Kenmare

The Sámas Spa

If you are looking to pamper yourself, I highly recommend Sámas Spa. The Sámas Experience is a blissful three hours with your first hour in the thermal suite where you can sit in the sauna, cool down with the ice fountain, or relax in the vitality pool. Then it's time for your treatment of choice, such as a body treatment or a facial. The last hour you'll lounge in your cozy robe with a warm blanket and soothing music in an all-glass room with a view of the woods.

Park Hotel Kenmare

At the end of a spa treatment, you'll find yourself lounging in an all-glass room with views of the woods and Kenmare Bay. Photo by Lara Dunning

There is also an 18-hole golf course, a lap pool, a cinema, and on certain days of the week, there are lifestyle classes and guided garden walks.

Dining at the Park Hotel Kenmare

There are three dining options at the hotel. The Bar & Cellar is the hotel's bar and lounge and has a couple of sitting rooms, one with tables and chairs, and another connected to the lobby with a variety of seating arrangments and a piano. During the day, guests may use this room to enjoy a book or gather to chat.

Touted as the hotel's more casual dining experience, The Terrace features a dining menu with starters and mains. Another choice for dinner is the Dining Room where they have a multi-course tasting menu. In the morning, this becomes the breakfast room.

Park Hotel Kenmare

The Dining Room serves as the hotel's breakfast room as well as a more formal evening dining area. Photo courtesy of the Park Hotel Kenmare

During my stay, I dined at The Terrace, and my choices did not disappoint. To start, I ordered warm goat cheese on toast with poached pear.

Park Hotel Kenmare

Warm goat cheese on toast with poached pear. Photo by Lara Dunning

For my main course, I had pan fried halibut with a butter sauce, mashed potatoes, and fresh tomatoes. 

For breakfast, in the Dining Room, I ordered an egg with a potato cake with chives.

Park Hotel Kenmare

About Kenmare

Founded in 1690, Kenmare is County Kerry's first Heritage Town, and you'll find there are plenty of interesting sights, walking trails, pubs with live music, and lots of history.

For dining, I can recommend Tom Cream Fish & Wine & Accommodation, Jam, and Maison Gourmet. To satisfy chocolate cravings, stop by Lorge Chocolatier. There are plenty of pubs, and I suggest making the rounds by what type of music you like. Some popular pubs are Crowley's Bar, PF McCarthy's, and O'Donnabhains Gastro Bar. If accordion player Michael O'Brien is playing in town, be sure to see him.

Reenagross Park Kenmare

Close to the hotel's property are the trails at Reenagross Park Kenmare. On my first evening in Kenmare, I found the waterside trails and peaceful setting to be the perfect way to unwind after driving.

Park Hotel Kenmare

Reenagross Park Kenmare is steps away from the hotel. Photo by Lara Dunning

Kenmare Guided Heritage Walk

One of the things you won't want to miss is joining a Kenmare Guided Heritage Walk. On this two-hour walking tour, history lover Anne-Marie shares tales of the town's past as she guides you to the town's historic spots. All of which are within walking distance of the hotel.

If you can, I'd suggest joining a tour on your first day in Kenmare, that way you'll have a better understanding of the town, its people, and the buildings standing today, many of which date back to the town's founding. Some of the highlights of the tour include Cromwell's bridge, Our Lady's Well, a 1799 church and the stone circle.

Park Hotel Kenmare

The stone circle in Kenmare is one of the largest in south west Ireland. Photo by Lara Dunning

After the tour, pop into the Kenmare Heritage Centre to see the exhibits.

When You Visit Kenmare

The Park Hotel Kenmare gave me time to unwind and refresh for the rest of my Ireland adventures. The spa, the spacious room with mountain and water view, and the charming historic town of Kenmare made a lasting impression. Book your stay online at the Park Hotel Kenmare.

Ireland is best experienced by car as there are so many off-the-beaten-path locations and towns to explore. Since my travels focused on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, I flew into Shannon Airport, which is 3-hour drive from Waterville. I used Auto Europe, which works with all major car rental companies to get the best deal and has automatic car options. I picked up my car rental at Auto Europe’s airport location, and minutes later I was off on my Ireland adventure. It’s important to note there are toll roads on the way to Waterville, and they do accept credit cards.

You can find more information about Kenmare at Kenmare Co. KerryWild Atlantic Way, and The Ring of KerryRead more about travels in Ireland on Wander here.

Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations and car rental for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

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